COLLEGE… the thoughts of piling under deadlines and waking up early give me shivers down my spine. Don’t get me wrong, being in college was one of the best times of my life, I learned so much about the real world, people and myself. I met all of my now good friends and made awesome connections with awesome people in college. They helped to shape me into the well-rounded person I am today. I miss the social aspect of college so much, but it wasn’t like that when I first started.
I had a hard time adjusting to being away from home and figuring out my future. Here are some tips that I wish I knew before my first semester of college because it would have made my experience so much better.
Pick an organization that aligns with your interest and start building your resume
One of the biggest struggles that many of my friends had was not being able to showcase anything from their college career. Frankly your day to day lessons in Liberal Studies classes, Calculus lessons, or Chemistry classes, etc are not going to help you land a job after graduating, so it is super important to take the opportunities in college to expand your life skills. These skills include public speaking, leadership, financial management, event planning, time management. And these are skills that you can only learn from being a part of a student organization.
At the beginning of the school year, universities and colleges will have organizations showcase where student organizations set up booths to showcase information about their purpose, membership, leadership, etc. These organizations can be multicultural, volunteer-based, major-related, environment, hobby-based, etc. If none of those organizations interest you, you can create your own organization, check with your school. In my sophomore year, I joined an Asian interest sorority that emphasized academic, philanthropy and leadership development. I wished I joined sooner in order to contribute to the tenure of being a part of something outside of class.
Many employers want well-rounded individuals, so even if you don’t have any working experience, you will can at least begin harvesting your life skills (as mentioned above) by being a part of a student organization.
Lastly, don’t just join and be a regular member for all four years. The experience of being a member versus being one of the officers of an organization is vastly different. You’ll get to work on behind the scene things that can impact the whole organization. For example, after joining my sorority, I took on a philanthropy chair and was in charge of hosting a huge banquet for over 200 people. I learned how to delegate work to subcommittees, make reservations, budgeting, DIY decorations, and public speaking. It was rewarding to being able to contribute to our philanthropic cause and put our organization on the map, and I was able to talk about these accomplishments during job interviews. These were real skills that I applied, and the most important thing is that these skills are transferable.
By having an extensive list of accomplishments within your organization, you will be able to sell yourself more compared to someone who only has a solid GPA but not as well-rounded.
Mental health is just as important as physical health
I had so much fun in college, but it was also one of the most stressful times in my life. I didn’t start developing anxiety until I hit freshman year, and I fell into the trap of hoping that my internal struggles would disappear on their own, but they never did. The transition from high school to college is very difficult. You have to fend your physical well being, keeping up with classes, finding new friends, and adapting to a new living environment, which make it easy for your mental health and self-care priorities to fall to the bottom of your list.
If I can go back, I would have sought out help from my school counseling center sooner. Some schools allow you to meet with a therapist a few times per semester, and I highly recommend you to use it. For some schools, therapy sessions are can already be a part of your tuition so you essentially already paid for it. They will work with your class schedule and it is confidential.
Seeking help for your mental well-being is just as important as going to the doctor to get regular checkups.
Finding friends who you can confide in can also help you greatly. Having a good social group proves to be beneficial to your overall health, not just mentally but also physically. A study has shown that people who have a good network of friends and acquaintances tend to lead a happier and longer life. If you are closed with your family, I also recommend you to lean on them during your adjusting period. I called home every day to talk to my mom and she was my rock through everything.
Your parents understand you and the difficulties of being away from home and growing up, so having loved ones who know how to support you is extremely uplifting.
Avoid having a boyfriend, avoid the drama
When I got to college, I just got out of a long term relationship and it was devasting. This opened me up to be super vulnerable to relationships. I ended up dating two other people and it was super stressful. I was only looking to fill that empty gap, I told myself “I’m still young, so it’s okay to have fun and date around.” It was such a waste of time and resources because I wasn’t in a good place to love or care for myself. I didn’t know my worth nor standards, so I couldn’t set expectations on how I should be treated, which led to toxic relationships.
Before you expect love from another person, learn to love yourself first.
I wished I stayed single. It would have saved me so many headaches and tears, and from things that I’m still recovering from. Moving to a new place is difficult, and it might sound selfish but you should only have yourself to worry about. Especially if you’ve never been away from home like I was, you may not have the experience yet to decide whether a person will be good for you.
So rather than spending that energy on just one person who may not last, use that time to find yourself and learn how to love yourself first before expecting someone else to love.
The myth that your first year GPA is not important is far from the truth
I don’t understand why this myth is so popular. First off, depending on your classes, your first year should be your easiest year (in most cases), that means you’re still taking introduction classes that still have the same feel as your high school classes. There are resources everywhere for you to use in order to establish that strong foundation of knowledge to move forward in your courses.
Some of you may already decide on a major, so your intro classes will count towards your overall standing within the program. GPA (grade point average) is what you earn upon completion of a class.
4.0 = A; 3.0 = B; 2.0 = C; 1.0 = D
You get the picture!
Because your first-year classes are easier, you should work towards having a high GPA by the beginning of your sophomore year so it can act as a cushion for your harder classes as you move further into your major. GPA is hard to build and easy to destroy. It take several semesters to go up 0.5 points by making all A’s and B’s, but it only takes 1 C to bring you down by nearly 1 point.
You do not want to start your 2nd year with a struggling GPA, and upon your 3rd year finding it difficult to apply for internships that require GPAs of at least a 3.0. I have friends who were high flyers when it comes to grades their senior year, but they struggled to find an internship before graduating because their GPA wasn’t high enough to apply for an internship where GPA requirement are often 3.0s. GPAs are easy to mess up and takes forever to raise.
Not everyone has their sh*t together
My time in college was easily one of the best times of my life. Along the way, there were moments when I felt like I was lacking greatly compared to my peers. I changed my major three times, endless nights at the library, cried myself to sleep due to stress and faced rounds of anxiety attacks.
I had a friend who was excelling in an intro to Java class. I always played catch up whenever we were paired together because she just seemed to have it together. Turned out, she was already onto her second degree, so she was familiar with how to navigate the college life. From her previous experience, she knew how to prepare for the class, how to ask questions, an how to find resources for help. She was years ahead of me so it was not fair for me to compare my third semester of college to someone who already has a degree under their belt.
Don’t compare your bad day to anyone else’s good day
You should not measure your achievement against anyone else’s especially if you want to make the most out of your own experience. College is not for winning against anyone, as cliche as it might sound, college is when you can find yourself. And it’s not just you, I can guarantee that almost everyone that you will meet is struggling in their own ways and trying to find themselves. There will be moments when you feel inadequate especially after a setback, but setbacks are temporary, things will get better depending on how you react to it. You cannot compare your bad day to anyone else’s good day. So don’t beat yourself up over one bad grade especially if you already did the best you could.
All and all, if you are in your first semester of college, I wish you the best of luck and for the rest of the school year. You will have fun meeting new people and making new connections. Remember to rely on your friends and family for support. It’s okay to feel lost because things will get better because once you find your new group of friends, you’ll feel right at home. Be patient with yourself, and be excited with all the great possibilities to come. Most importantly, take care of yourself.
Thank you for reading ^.^